Advent 2016


This feels like the “after all is said and done” day at the end of a month that … I don’t even know what to say about it. You may have noticed that I haven’t been writing. There are so many words out there already. I feel like everything that could be said has been said. Continue reading

Blank Friday

IMG_0308Yesterday the little family, who had spent Thanksgiving with us, had to leave by 10 a.m. so my husband and I had Black Friday to ourselves. I spent it in front of the woodstove, reading. It was a Blank Friday.

I did not pick up the last of the toys scattered on the floor. I did not speak more than 10 words to Vic. I did not exercise. I did not go out of the house. I nibbled leftovers all day but, after making a breakfast frittata for everybody out of the leftover mashed potatoes with leeks, I did not feed anybody else. I did not go online and post pictures of our Thanksgiving table or our Thanksgiving snow. I did not go online, period. Continue reading

My father’s daughter

IMG_0304In a few days I will pick up the Thanksgiving turkey and pies at the South Bend Farmers Market. I have a personal connection with that market. My father sold his family’s poultry there when he was a teenager, helping support his family during the Depression.

It’s one of those circles that close when you move back to home territory after a lifetime of living elsewhere. I like that connection but other echoes of my father’s life in my own sometimes trouble me. Continue reading

Pass the compassion and forgiveness

I am hosting a crowd for a funeral in my large mansion somewhere in the deep South. I am bustling about getting everything ready, including an elaborate meal. I have chosen a white eyelet dress to wear but during the preparations I wear a white blouse and brightly colored skirt. The guests have not yet arrived but it is clear that they will of different cultures and races. It is also clear that my butler, George, does not approve of this cultural diversity. I am afraid that his resentment might sabotage the whole event. I am the boss, after all. I try to be firm with George. And then I change into the white eyelet dress. End of dream.

I’ve been doing a lot of crosscultural hosting recently, and I can understand how Butler George represents a part of me, as does the hostess. Butler George is the one who preserves traditions (e.g. Thanksgiving), who assures that everything runs well and that proper form is followed. Butler George was resenting the Chinese grandfather who was popping pistachios into my granddaughter’s mouth just before we sat down to eat. And Butler George was indignant that, in the middle of family time and Thanksgiving preparations, messages were coming from Congo hinting that more money was needed for certain things. Meanwhile, the Hostess (in her prep-time multicultural outfit) was noticing how husband and son-in-law would sporadically ask what they could do to help get meals on but then revert to their computers with the assigned tasks half finished. Continue reading

Congo joy, Congo lament

While we were hosting friends from Congo last week, the situation in Congo itself began deteriorating rapidly.

However, in the brief days Pastor François and his wife, Felly, spent in our home; at the Thanksgiving celebration we hosted with more friends; and in the discussions we held on how our churches might continue to relate to each other we never got around to discussing the troubles that were bringing Congo into the headlines once again after a long absence from the spotlight. The personal and communal superseded the political, even as Congo seemed on the verge of falling apart.

It was partly the timing. The invasion and conquest of Goma happened when I was too busy with the visit to be reading or listening to much news. More important, it was such a contrast to the joy and warmth of the visit itself. It coincided with a jubilant crosscultural worship service in a lovely rural Michigan church. We had other things to do and talk about and little time. This is perhaps a landmark of crosscultural friendship. We have reached a stage where the particulars of our lives, families, and aspirations; reminiscences of our shared experiences; and news of our mutual friends crowd out talk about major political/military developments with international repercussions. We don’t see or treat each other as representatives of our respective countries; we are only ourselves and we focus on each other.

This is not to say that the concerns are too distant or minor to matter to those we know and love. Our friends may return to rioting in Kinshasa, even though the events took place on the other side of that vast country, which usually seems a world apart from the capital. The Kabila government is threatened. Thus, other friends and acquaintances who are members of the Congolese parliament certainly have their hands full. And life in Congo will no doubt get more difficult before it improves (and one wonders if as well as when).

Whatever happens, it will be impossible for my husband and me, and a growing group of our friends, to ignore, because we are unalterably bound by ties of love with that impossible country. When the political is personal and the personal, political, the news can become heartrending.

I don’t know if this makes us wiser or gives us any insight about courses of action our government should take. I don’t know the truth about, say, the machinations of the Rwandan government or whether the Chinese could move in and straighten things out as some are suggesting. It is tempting to sign every e-petition that promises some kind of solution. I do let my government know I care, for what it’s worth.

What I know to do is to pray for Congo when I can pray fervently. I don’t bother much with routine prayers. My experience is that serious prayers actually make a difference. But fervent prayer comes out of love, attention, even heartbreak. My heart is breaking for Congo.